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16 April 2020

Building user trust through more transparent subscriptions

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Posted by Angela Ying, Product Manager, Google Play

For many developers, subscriptions are an important part of your business. Google Play has continued to support the growth of subscription offerings through developer tools such as new insights in the Google Play Console, and an improved user experience, including the subscriptions center, where users can easily manage all of their subscriptions. Part of improving the subscription user experience comes from fostering a trustworthy platform for subscribers; making sure they feel fully informed when they purchase in-app subscriptions.

To continue to build this trust, we announced an updated subscriptions policy today, as part of a broader policy update to build user trust and enhance user safety across Google Play. This new policy requires you to be transparent about your subscription offering, to ensure every user evaluating your service has an informed choice.

When users lose trust in your app due to unclear subscription offers, they unsubscribe and often leave negative reviews, ultimately hurting your business. On the other hand, a clear and compelling offer gives users all the information they need to make a decision, increasing their trust in your service and hopefully encouraging them to stick around for a long time.

Complying with our subscriptions policy

App with clear offer terms, billing frequency, and price. App with hidden terms, unclear billing frequency and price.

The goal of this policy update is to ensure users understand the subscription offer, the terms of free trials and introductory offers, and how to manage their subscription, including cancellation. You can read the full policy and see examples of best practices and common violations in the Policy Center, but the most important thing is to make sure you are clear about your subscription offering within your app. Consider the following best practices:

Be explicit about your subscription terms, such as:

  • Whether a subscription is required to use all or parts of the app. If a subscription is not required, users should be able to easily dismiss your subscription offer.
  • Cost of your subscription
  • Frequency of your billing cycle.

If you offer free trials and introductory offers, clearly and accurately tell users:

  • Duration
  • Pricing
  • What is included with free trial or introductory offer
  • When a free trial will convert to a paid subscription
  • How a user can cancel if they do not want to convert to a paid subscription.

Ensure your app clearly discloses how a subscriber can cancel and/or manage a subscription.

You have until June 16, 2020 to bring your existing apps into compliance with this policy.

A better user experience without additional development work for you

In conjunction with these policy updates, we’ve made several platform-level product changes to help increase user trust and build user confidence in subscribing.

  • We made improvements to the checkout cart to increase transparency and improve the user experience.
  • We now email users a reminder before their free trial or intro price ends.
  • We now email users subscribed to 3-month, 6-month or annual plans a reminder when their renewal is coming up.
  • We notify active subscribers who uninstall the app that uninstalling does not automatically unsubscribe them from the service.

We believe that although these changes may lead to fewer conversions or more subscription cancelations in the short term, they will also result in higher quality, more committed subscribers with lower refund and chargeback rates. Overall, this should result in a more stable recurring revenue.

Resources to help

We want to help you do the right thing for your subscribers, so we’ve created this checklist, video and training in Google Play’s Academy for App Success to use as a reference when you’re making any necessary app updates.

Thank you for continuing to partner with us to make Google Play a trustworthy platform for you and your users. Not only can we work together to create great experiences for users, but we can continue to grow subscription businesses as well.

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